Wall Street Journal: “What’s at the Heart of Happiness?”

Sunday’s online edition of The Wall Street Journal summarizes current research into happiness:

Studies have found that married folks are happier than those who are single.

“Marriage provides two sources of happiness,” says Andrew Oswald, an economics professor at England’s Warwick University. “One is sex and the other is friendship. Marriage has one of the largest impacts on human well-being…”

…Prof. Schkade says work’s real pleasure may come from the sense of accomplishment we feel afterward. “We know progress makes people feel good,” he says. “You should design a life where you have that feeling of progress…”

…when we get what we hanker after, we quickly become dissatisfied and soon we’re lusting after something else. Academics refer to this as the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation.”

We may, however, be able to slow the process of adaptation…

If we volunteer, give to charity or behave politely, we usually feel pretty good.

…Good behavior paid big dividends in ancient societies, notes Boston money manager Terry Burnham, co-author of “Mean Genes.”

“Virtue is built into us because virtue was rewarded,” he argues. “In small-scale societies, where you are well known, there are rewards for being a good citizen and severe punishments for being a rule breaker.”
The production and consumption of porn are unlikely to lead to happiness. Two of porn’s hallmarks are unattached promiscuity and despair about marriage:

Now on Sale at Amazing.net (explicit language)


This DVD features a story-driven title that mixes drama with hardcore sex. Wonderland tells the story of a man obsessed with his stepdaughter’s friend when she visits during Christmas break. Gary sacrifices everything in his traditional suburban existence for a single moment of ecstasy with a femme fatale.

Deviant Housewives
In this world nothing lasts forever and it looks like Kelly Erikson’s husband Van needs some space. Kelly decides to invite all her friends going thru the same problems to stay and support each other. But all of Kelly’s friends have an empty void in their lives they need filled and it’s from a younger man!

Use Em’ Abuse Em’ and Lose Em’ #9
Ride along as we pick up ordinary young women fuck’em senseless and dump’em! It’s all good clean fun!

Housewives Unleashed #16
These fine ladies have been locked away in their houses for far too long. With their husbands away on business our housewives need crave and demand satisfaction. The action gets hot and horny the moment their desires are finally unleased..!

David and Jennifer have a marriage on the rocks. In desperation they seek out a marriage counselor who proposes a revolutionary new method of therapy. David and Jennifer have free reign to cheat on each other for the next 24 hours. Their sexual inhibitions are set free and their fantasies fulfilled as they visit The Dark Side.
Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant (1988) found that “common, nonviolent pornography” is highly effective anti-marriage propaganda:

Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography on Family Values; Women’s Desire to Have Daughters Plummets
Strong perceptual and attitudinal changes were indeed observed. The perception of the very nature of sexuality changed… [P]romiscuity in both men and women was deemed more natural after prolonged consumption of pornography than without such consumption. The effect was uniform for male and female respondents and for students and nonstudents. Beliefs in the faithfulness of sexual partners predictably declined with the greater acceptance of promiscuity…

Prolonged consumption of pornography fostered greater acceptance of pre- and extramarital sexual relations for self and intimate partners. Along with that, it fostered acceptance of sexually nonexclusive relations with parters. Prolonged consumption also led to greater acceptance of the myth of health risks from sexual repression. Pornography apparently manages to convey the idea that unrestrained sexuality is wholesome and healthy, and that any restraint poses risks… Additionally, prolonged consumption of pornography was found to counteract gender equality. For intimate relationships, male dominance was favored over egalitarianism…

Pornography consumption had a most powerful effect on evaluations of the desirability and viability of marriage. Endorsement of marriage as an essential institution dropped from 60.0% in the control groups to 38.8% in the treatment groups…
If happiness at work derives from a feeling of accomplishment, that feeling can be hard to find in the porn industry. Does Kenneth Guarino, founder of Capital Video, watch porn films?

“Never. It’s like selling doughnuts. After a week or two you aren’t going to want to eat any more doughnuts. It’s just a business. I like to watch the numbers.”
And what about the performers?
…rather than “easy money”, respondents reported that most of the work is tiring, boring, and physically exhausting. Like prostitutes, a few make a great deal of money while most make a modest or meager living…

Although the industry is dependent on fans for survival, many of the respondents reported a fairly negative image of the imagined viewer… Ironically, then, actresses and actors are motivated in part to receive recognition from a group they know little about and often disparage. In addition, they reported little pride in the products they produce. Like most artifacts in the “sleaze industry”, porn is disposable, mass-produced, fungible, and easily forgotten… Unlike the “straight” industry, actors and actresses are paid a flat fee for their performances, and receive no royalties for successful projects.
If virtue was rewarded and anti-social behavior punished in small-scale societies where a person was well known, the anonymity of watching porn cuts directly against this. The porn performer is unlikely to be anyone the viewer knows personally. Their suffering is easier to overlook.

Gail Dines Presents: Pornography and Pop Culture (explicit language)
“Men are willing to pay high prices for new technology if they can bring their pornography closer to the home, because the closer to home you bring it, the better the anonymity. And this is what helps increase the use of pornography. The more anonymous you can make it, the better it is.”

PBS Frontline: “Porn and Politics in a Digital Age”
Like video, pay-per-view and satellite TV offered consumers a new way to watch a wide variety of adult films on demand. Unlike video, though, you didn’t have to leave your home at all. The Internet — especially as it got cheaper, faster, and easier to use during the late 1990s — further expanded the variety of and ease of access to porn. Both technologies were cheaper, safer, and even more anonymous than video…

The ease of consumption made porn even more popular — and more profitable. Between 1992 and 1999, according to research by Showtime Event Television, pay-per-view revenues went from $54 million to $367 million. In 1998, the adult content market earned roughly $1 billion, according to Forrester Research. By 2001, the total was up to $14 billion — bigger, according to some estimates, than football, baseball, and basketball combined. “What investors and bigger corporations soon discovered,” according to The New York Times, “was a vast audience for pornography — once the privacy barrier was eliminated.”

Los Angeles Times: “In California’s Unregulated Porn Film Industry, an Alarming Number of Performers Are Infected With HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. And Nobody Seems to Care.”
…California regulators and political officials don’t believe the public is worried about protecting the porn stars themselves–despite the enormous popularity of the films they produce. As David Gurley, staff attorney for the California Labor Commissioner’s office, says: “Porn stars–people think they’re not worth the time. The public sees these people as disposable…”

See also:

Marriage is Undersold in America

The empirical evidence is now strong and persuasive that a good marriage enhances personal happiness, economic success, health and longevity. This evidence should become a regular part of our educational programs and our public discourse.

Yet successful marriage promotion requires more than empirical evidence. Marriage has fallen by the wayside, in part, because it receives less and less social recognition and approval…

Steve and Cokie Roberts Report on Marriage: A Good Idea that Refuses to Die
Steve, who’s been the Shapiro Professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University since 1997 [and married for 41 years], says that time and again his students come into his office and ask, “How do you do it?” The students aren’t asking how to write a snappy lead or tips on getting an interview with Al Gore. “Popular culture tells them it’s naive and foolish to think of having a lifelong devotion to someone. But they have the impulse. I’m not saying marriage is right for all people all the time, but I think it’s right for most people, most of the time. To have a partner to go through life with is one of the most elemental human desires, and these kids want to hear it’s not a pipe dream, a fiction.”

The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Review of the Research
Whitty (2003) also found that both men and women perceive online sexual activity as an act of betrayal that is as authentic and real as offline acts and that Internet pornography use correlated significantly with emotional infidelity (N = 1,117; 468 males and 649 females)…

Video Presentation: A Content Analysis of 50 of Today’s Top Selling Porn Films (explicit language)
“Less than 10% of the videos showed any kind of a positive act, and that included kissing… caressing happened maybe twice. Something like a verbal compliment, ‘Gosh, you look pretty’, not, ‘Slut bitch, come over here,’ that happened maybe five times in the 304 scenes. So we have a ratio of positive to negative behaviors of 1 to 9, which is not a sustainable, happy relationship.”

Salon: Porn Isolates its Users, Erodes Civility and Love
…whether you approve of porn in theory or not, its effect will be to displace [the mate of the porn addict]. Like crack, it tends to take over, to push out other hungers that tend to nurture the human community by making us dependent on one another. Since we are dependent on each other we must be civil and loving. If we are not dependent on each other then we needn’t be civil and loving. We needn’t have community and family. That is the way in which any drug breaks down family and community by isolating its user. Porn isolates its users also, meeting their needs outside the social compact. The social compact becomes a commercial compact between anonymous people, while those in the actual human community are relegated to bystander status. It introduces a third party into the erotic economy of a relationship…

Schwyzer on Porn: “The pursuit of everlasting novelty is the enemy of actual relationship”
Ultimately, the great tragedy of porn is that it teaches the men who use it to pursue “everlasting novelty…”

The pursuit of everlasting novelty is the enemy of actual relationship. Real relationships are built on a very different premise from porn — the notion that what is really sexy is not “new skin” but radical connection with one other person. Porn says that happiness is found by having the same experience over and over again with lots of different women; true eros says that happiness is found by having different experiences over and over again with the same person.